Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Sunday, March 03, 2013


The concept of "the commons" is indispensable to both environmental and peer-to-peer democratization politics, while the narrative of an "enclosure of the commons," whether of the land or of the archive, provides a key context for the critique, resistance, and aspirational ethos of both environmental and peer-to-peer politics as well.

More than simply clarifying the political terrain, another crucial reason to stress the commons commonality for these politics for me is that it helps resist especially the American tendency to anti-governmental framings of either environmentalist or p2p/a2k politics -- framings which inevitably facilitate self-defeating anti-politics in the name of politics: For example, as when environmentalist politics are peddled as corporate-militarist greenwashing either via techno-fixated geo-engineering or lifestyling consumption. For example, as when p2p/a2k politics are peddled as corporate-militarist surveillance, marketing, crowdsourcing, financialization, and zero comments via "social network" consumption-surfing-messaging, all without actually substantial collective testimony, problem-solving, criticism, organization, or resistance.

It is crucial to grasp about a2k formations that access to knowledge implies that there is such a thing as reliable knowledge to access in the first place, just as the peers in p2p formations must actually exhibit the equity-in-diversity of peers, which implies in turn the maintenance of a legible scene of informed, non-duressed consent. Both reliable knowledge as well as a legible scene of consent can be provided by legitimate political processes: And for those of us who demand as the sign of legitimacy that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed this means accountable democratic governance devoted to the provision of nonviolent alternatives to the adjudication of disputes: This obviously includes disputes over facts (concerning, for example, the status of ecosystems, the causes of damage, the determination of the most promising actually available remedies), disputes over outcomes, even disputes over what constitutes dispute, violence, consent as such.

But it is just as important to grasp that through its definitive commitment to the provision of a legible scene of consent the anti-violence politics of democratization offers an indispensable connection between environmentalism both as a fact-based and norm-based ethos: it is the insistence that the scene of consent be informed that properly demands the public provision on reliable, testable, accountable accessibly published, evidenciary knowledge, it is the insistence that the scene of consent be non-duressed that properly demands the public provision of equal recourse to law, general welfare (health, education, sustenance, shelter, support), and -- crucially -- the protection against and amelioration of the legacy of parochial exploitation and violation of common and public goods.

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